by Lori Copeland, contemporary (2002)
HeartQuest, $9.99, ISBN 0-8423-1936-0
Major spoilers are in this review.
This is an inspirational romance, but thankfully, after the first six or seven chapters, Lori Copeland tones down the preaching and gets down to telling a story. Which means, people start talking like normal people without dropping the word "Lord" every two words and they stop trying too hard to convert me, the reader. The Christian elements are still there, but they now complement rather than drive or overpower the story.
It is during these more subdued chapters that Roses Will Bloom Again really shine. Then the author ruins everything by trying too hard to be cute. Oh well.
The plot really doesn't make sense. Fifteen years ago, a teenaged Emma Mansi almost married her teen boyfriend Sam Gold, until her sister Lully broke them up. Emma ran away from home, ended up in a shelter, and today, she continued working at shelters and stuff. Then came the news that Lully had died, and Emma is crushed. They are close sisters! Okay, Emma proceeds to tell me that so she and Lully haven't spoken in years, but they are still close because Emma knows if she needs help, Lully will always be there. She has lost me somewhere after the "haven't spoken in years but still close" thing, maybe you'll figure it out better than me.
So she returns to the smalltown of Serenity, where she learns that Lully has left the ugly old house to both her and Sam! Oh no, what can she do now? Me? Personally, if I have so many horrid childhood memories in that place like Emma claims to have, I'll sell. But Emma will keep the house no matter what, because the house is all she will have of the sister she hasn't bothered to write to or call in years! The mayor wants to buy the house and create a carpark over that land after he has demolish the house, but Emma is aghast! She wants to open an inn or tea shop instead! Yeah, open a business in the very house where people still throw stones at and call the place haunted, and wait for these same people flock to the shop in droves. That's a smart businesswoman. No wonder smalltowns remain smalltowns while people in big places like New York City and London have lots of sex and fun and money. Okay, maybe not NYC and London, try LA.
And what's wrong with a car park anyway?
For the most part, Emma is pathetic. But she's written as pathetic, and this story is supposed to be her journey to rediscovering God and herself, so I endure through her long sessions of tears and self-pity, hoping that the pay-off will be good. For a while, it seems that the pay-off will be good, because in the middle of the story, Sam and Emma slowly begin to talk instead of avoiding each other. Okay, 'talk' is mostly a misleading description of Emma's weepy collapse in Sam's arms and basically using him as her unpaid shrink, but hey, I'm still okay with it, because Sam is a nice guy with a decent sense of humor.
Then comes the evil. Like the Ultrasaccharine Near-Retard Plot Device to Make You Go Awwww. The Demon Journal From The Past, complete with a scrawl "Lully Loves You Emma!" written in child-like hand - which adult would write her journals like that? - and my favorite, after long hours of trying to crack a password to Dead Lully's computer files, the password turns out to be "Emma". Is a four-lettered password even accepted in computer programs nowadays? And what is Lully doing, spending the last fifteen years obsessing over Emma? What is this? Heavenly Creatures? (Call me psychic, but I have this feeling that Lully and Emma aren't supposed to give off lesbian mommy-killing lovers vibes.)
No, my favorite has to be the Long Lost, Possibly Gone Forever Very Important Document being tucked away in the family Bible. Fancy that!
But the most infuriating thing about this book is how the author deliberately regresses Emma's entire journey from pathetic self-absorbed twit to a not-so-pathetic woman all for the sake of a cheap saccharine ending. As if the Near-Retard Guy and the "I Love You" nonsense in diaries written by dead people aren't painfully contrived and nauseatingly sugary enough, no, we must have an airport chase scene, yes? Only, in this case, in order to bring about this airport chase scene, we have Emma leaving Sam for the airport, and as she boards the plane, laments to God that if Sam loves her, he will have come here and stopped her from leaving, and since he hasn't done so... The book flies across the room there and then. Why the heck can't she tell him she loves him instead of playing such bloody stupid games with the man?
Emma, you dumb heifer, even if the Lord can read your mind, he is not your messenger boy and he will not relay telepathic messages from you to Sam. Lay off those childish mind games and get lost.
There is a good story in here somewhere - even if the ultra-weepy and passive heroine needs some getting used to - but the author spoils her story by cramming in very contrived Hallmark scenes at the expense of logic, continuity, or coherence. There are enough nice moments between Sam and Emma towards the more readable middle of the book that make me really want to like this book more. But the ending chapters of the book causes my blood pressure to rocket straight past the stratosphere. The Diary, I Love You's, and other contrived plot resolutions all congeal into one large sugary mess that make me feel somewhat ill.
This book at Amazon.com
This book at Amazon UK
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